How to Pick the Perfect Volunteer Management System

Posted Thursday, December 13th, 2018 by Sterling Volunteers Staff

There are numerous advantages of a high-quality volunteer management system (VMS). Recruitment, engagement and data tracking for your volunteers are top priority, and you’re looking for a good fit when it comes to finding a VMS solution. However, you may just not be sure exactly where or how to start the search. In the latest Sterling Volunteers webinar, “Picking the Perfect Volunteer Management System”, Ben Bisbee of Rhinocorn Consulting maps out the Who? What? Where? When? And Why? of the VMS solution search. After exploring his questions and developing sound, strategic answers, you’ll have no trouble deciding which system is right for your organization. Let’s get to them.

Every good vendor search starts with a little self-examination. How can you know if a vendor meets your needs if you don’t know what your needs are? Taking a thoughtful look at your organizations current systems and methods, including technology, for tracking volunteer information is step one on your journey to finding the right solution. Next, consider who will be responsible for the administration and support of the VMS and be sensitive to the technical capabilities of the managers and users. Don’t forget to include these people in the vetting process. Last, but certainly not least, be sure to talk budget. VMS vendor costs can range from free to thousands of dollars, so know your capacity for cost relative to your needs.

After some healthy reflection, turn your attention to the primary users of the platform, the volunteers. The expectations of volunteers will help steer you towards a system that meets and exceeds your organization’s needs. Volunteers are looking for an easy-to-use, readily available, customizable VMS that makes them feel more connected to your organization. A VMS that offers more than just “time tracking” capability will encourage volunteer engagement and point volunteers towards the personal connection and benefit of their service. Speaking of personal touch, easy access to user support is a top priority. As is remembering the wide range of backgrounds from which you gather volunteers and making sure the VMS will work for people with specialized needs.

Now that you know what to look for in a VMS, it’s time for an in-depth Q & A with prospective vendors. Using the information you gathered by looking at your organization and its volunteers, you’ll want to be sure the system works with the processes and technology you currently utilize for engaging volunteers. Don’t be afraid to ask about all the features available from the system even if you don’t think you have a need for them, you may find a feature that fills a need you didn’t foresee. Lastly, find out about free trials or sandbox availability as trying a system on for size is a great way to figure out if it is the right fit.

Finding the right VMS from an organized vantage point is ultimately your best strategy.  Involving users as well as stakeholders in the vetting process will ensure a smooth implementation of the system after purchase. Speaking of purchase, this is a significant one and an important tool for your organization, so the search process should not be taken lightly. Ask as many questions as it takes to feel comfortable with your investment. When it comes to finding the right VMS for your organization, there’s no such thing as “too many questions”.

To learn more about Volunteer Management Systems and the steps an organization should take when selecting one, view the OnDemand version of the “Picking the Perfect Volunteer Management System” webinar.

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